Durham to Houghall

This route mixes city streets and country footpaths to offer amazing views of the historic city of Durham and its surrounding countryside.  The route can be started in the town centre or up by the cathedral.

Circular  |  8.8km (5.5 miles)  |  Difficulty: Easy

Please note that the route given is a rough guide and should not be relied upon solely when planning a walk. Remember to plan ahead, get a proper map and ensure you have the right equipment.

The city sections of the route can be walked any time of the year but the countryside sections may be best to avoid on wet days as they can become quite muddy.  The route is short and for the most part is either through paved streets or on well maintained footpaths.  However, there are some moderately steep sections to add some challenge.

1: The route starts on Palace Green in front of the Cathedral.  From Palace Green it heads West through a small cut known as Windy Pass then turns right after the pass and heads down hill.

2: At the bottom of the hill the route follows a cut into the city centre and heads uphill into the market square.  The route then goes right and down across Elvet bridge.

3: The route crosses the street at the bottom of the hill, walkers are advised to use the traffic lights here.  The route then follows a cut on the far side of the road where the path  leads off from the road and turns right onto a back street.  This street leads to a footbridge which the route crosses.  After the bridge the route then follows the riverside path to the right.

Update: (August 2013)  For a few months now the path between points 3 and 4 has been blocked by the landslide.  As there seems to be no rush to sort this out a detour is required.  There are two options, the first is to head uphill after crossing the bridge to Leazes road, then follow the road and turn right onto Sherburn Road.  There is an unmarked road on the righthand side eventually (opposite Edge cut) which when followed leads to a footpath that cuts across a few fields then downhill to point 4.  This is the longer detour.  The second option is to stay on the South side of the bank and follow the footpath there along the river’s edge.  The path soon reaches a small road in front of the Durham rowing club.  Following this road will lead to green lane where a footpath can be found heading South and continuing along the riverside direct to point 5.  This is the shorter detour but it means that there is no opportunity to visit the walled Garden.

4: Eventually the path splits.  Walkers can choose to head left here to have a look at the Walled Garden.  However, if visited walkers will need to return to the original path. The path to the right continues along the river.

5: The route crosses the river again at Maiden Castle bridge.  (Walkers can choose to head straight ahead here to find a way up Maiden Castle for a breathtaking view of the city.  However, this detour requires backtracking to the bridge after its completion.)  The route then follows the footpath by the river till it reaches the main road.

6: Walkers need to cross straight over the road here and are advised to be careful because the road is usually busy and the humpback bridge obscures the views of drivers and pedestrians alike.  The route follows the footpath on the other side then the road.  Again, walkers should be aware of traffic along this narrow stretch of road, even though it is usually quite quiet.

7: Walkers can follow the road all the way to Houghall but there are plenty of opportunities along this section of the route to follow a number of historic and nature trails to the sides.  These are not accurately represented on the map but they use clear paths and informative signage.  These short trails always return back to the road.

8: Before reaching the village there is a small trail around a pond which provides a good place to take a break.  Where the road turns left into the village the route heads straight on along the path which leads into the forest.

9: Instead of turning right the route pushes on deeper into the forest towards a path which heads uphill next to a fence.  The route follows it to the top of the hill and turns right onto Hollingside Lane.

10: Along this road the route passes the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.  There is an entry fee to the gardens but its well worth it with its amazing sights and café.  There is an exit from the gardens on the far side from which walkers can easily rejoin the route near point 11. If not heading through the gardens the route continues along the road as it turns through Grey College.

11: The route crosses South Road at the traffic lights, heads down Elvet Hill Road then turns left up Mill Hill Lane.  The route approaches St. Aidan’s College then turns right up the road in front of the college.  This leads to the top of Elvet hill.

12: Before descending walkers are advised to head towards the view point and take in the sight.  The route then heads down onto Elvet Hill road and bears left.  From here it turns right at the end of the road, heads downhill then crosses to the gate on the far side of the roundabout.

13: The route now heads through the gate and downhill., following the right turn in the path and crossing Prebends bridge.  Here walkers can choose to head up through the gate in the old city wall and follow the Bailey road, head left and along the uphill path to go directly to Palace Green, left and along the lower route to head directly back to the city centre or right and downhill to the river bank.

14: Following the route after turning right from Prebend’s bridge brings walkers along the riverside path to Kingsgate bridge.  Here there is a flight of stairs up to the bridge which the route climbs.  At the top of the stairs is a cobbled street which leads onto the Baily Road.  This will lead to the same place as following the Baily road from Prebend’s bridge.  Continuing up hill from here leads to Palace Green and the end of the route.

Some of the amazing views on this route include Durham cathedral, the Castle, the walled garden, Houghall woods and the many bizarre buildings which make up the hill colleges.  In addition to these there are some amazing views of the historic city.  Along this route there is sufficient signposting so the chances of getting lost are small.  There is plenty of parking in the city in addition to an excellent park and ride service.  There is also a main line station just outside the city centre and plenty of accommodation.

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